Birmingham City Council’s equal pay bill rises by another £40m

It is understood the entire Birmingham City Council equal pay liability now exceeds £1 billion
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External auditors revealed that Birmingham City Council’s equal pay liability has increased by a huge £80m since the crisis was first announced.

Three months of delay and dither from the authority previously saw the bill rise by £42m – but that figure now stands at double, Grant Thornton said at a meeting last night (Thursday, October 12).

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It’s understood the entire liability now exceeds £1 billion. Delay in stopping the financial bleed was compounded by civil war within the council, including an alleged toxic environment between officers and councillors, leaking of confidential information and a desperate desire to placate unions, a damning report by auditors found.

Speaking at  a full council last night, Cllr Robert Alden, leader of the opposition Conservative group, said the auditors’ report contained “astonishing” revelations. In the 12-page document Grant Thornton highlighted concerns that legal advice given by the council’s own chief solicitor was not followed and that confidential information was ‘leaked’.

Birmingham Council HouseBirmingham Council House
Birmingham Council House

In response, council leader Cllr John Cotton said he did ‘not accept’ these elements of the report, and that he ‘sought legal advice’ to ask for those sections to be amended, but they were not.

He added: “I’ll preface what I’m about to say with we absolutely guarantee that we will do whatever it takes to address the external recommendations [of the auditors]. I will actually expect the auditor to keep asking the important questions. But several elements of it are inaccurate.”

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He disputed claims of leaked information, criticised allegations of a breakdown of officer-member relationships as ‘not accurate’ and claimed the Labour leadership’s request for help from the Local Government Association was not to undermine officers.

External auditor John Roberts, from Grant Thornton, told members at tonight’s meeting they “must not underestimate the extent of the challenge” facing them. “The council will be a very different, leaner organisation,” he said. “The impact of equal pay and other matters means that the council’s financial position is not currently sustainable. Urgent action is needed.”

Earlier yesterday, Mr Cotton announced that the three workforce unions – GMB, Unison and Unite – had now ‘signed up’ to a deal on a job evaluation scheme that met best value requirements and could be completed by a deadline of April 2025.

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